Did the NBA Investigate Earl Monroe For Point Shaving After He Scored On His Own Basket?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Earl Monroe was investigated by the NBA for point-shaving due to Monroe making a shot on his own basket at the end of a game.

Earl “the Pearl” Monroe has a bit of an odd position in New York Knicks history. He was brought to the Knicks in a blockbuster trade in 1971 and paired with Walt “Clyde” Frazier to form one of the most exciting backcourts in NBA history. Both players were great ballhandlers and scorers, so they gave opposing teams fits. They helped lead the Knicks to the 1973 NBA Championship.


The “odd” position Monroe was in is that he was the last of the championship Knicks to leave the team. Well past the time that the Knicks were any good, Monroe was still on the team. He retired from the NBA as a member of the Knicks in 1980. It was kind of odd seeing these medicore-to-bad late 1970s Knicks team, but with Monroe still chugging along as a member of the team.

Today’s legend involves a game a little bit earlier than that, during the Knicks’ mediocre 1976-77 season (when fellow future Hall of Famers Bill Bradley and Walt Frazier were also still on the team, as was Phil Jackson – Bradley retired after this season). After a March 1977 game against the Portland Trailblazers, Monroe was actually investigated by the NBA for point-shaving, all due to a bizarre shot that he made at the end of the game.

Read on for the details!

On March 10, 1977, the 29-36 New York Knicks were hosting the 38-28 Portland Trailbazers. However, the Trailblazers, who would go on to win the NBA Championship that season, were playing without their star center, Bill Walton.

So late in the game, the Knicks were leading by 10 points when Johnny Davis hit a jumper to cut the Knick lead to 108-100. Future NBA coach Lionel Hollins then stole the inbounds pass by Bill Bradley and converted another score, to cut the lead to 108-102. The Knicks then inbounded again to Monroe, who then shot the ball…into his own basket as time expired! The final score was 108-104.

The problem? The betting spread on the game was five and a half points, meaning that bettors would have to bet on whether the Knicks would win by more or less than five and a half points. So Monroe’s shot (which was credited to the nearest Blazer to him on the court, Hollins) meant that instead of the Knicks covering the spread, the Blazers covered the spread.

Point-shaving is when a player intentionally makes it so that his team scores less points than expected, so as to affect the point spread. Two famous instances where players were caught point-shaving were CCNY in the early 1950s and Boston College in the late 1970s. No NBA player has ever been proven to have shaved points, although there have been a number of players suspected of doing so over the years.

When asked after the game what he was thinking, Monroe laughed and replied, “I forgot at which end of the court I was standing. Anyways, I also thought that the game was over.”

This is not unheard of, of course, as Knicks fans are familiar with Nate Robinson shooting at his own basket at the end of a quarter, thinking that the buzzer had expired (it HAD, but just barely).

Sometimes players do foolish things.

The NBA, though, had to investigate Monroe. They ended up clearing him of any wrongdoing.

Interestingly enough, the FBI had been investigating a man who claimed to be working with a member of the 1976-77 Knicks team to shave points, but the man kept backing out of actually doing a bet with the FBI informant, as he kept having reasons why he couldn’t bet that day or that day or the other day. For instance, he said the player would shave points in a Knicks/Sixers game in late 1976, but then said no bet because the player had gotten criticism for playing poorly the previous game (Monroe had a decent game that night, including a game-tying bucket late in the game). No bet was ever made, so the FBI was never ever able to prove whether there was anything to the claims of the bookkeeper in question. They even interviewed the player in question, who denied any involvement in point-shaving.

Anyhow, the legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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